Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by Whitelighter: OK half term cruise, but don't kid youself this is a luxury holiday
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OK half term cruise, but don't kid youself this is a luxury holiday
We have been cruising on and off for 12 years and most of it has been done with RCI or Celebrity, though this cruise was the first Royal trip since 2005. I'd read a lot before booking and was a bit concerned that the emphasis with the line had changed and I wasnt sure that it was going to still suit us, but the dates were good for the half term holiday in the UK so we booked anyway.
With 6 of us in total we booked interconnecting Superior Ocean View staterooms (online, which you can no longer do which is a pain, multiple staterooms can now only be booked by phone or a TA) on Deck 9 mid ships. Our party was us, our two kids aged 2 and 6 and my wifes parents who are retired. Imention this only as it gaves us a wide age range and an experience of most services.
Very quick and very easy. Despite getting to southampton very early our C&A membership level meant we could get on board as soon as the gates opened. We actually boarded sooner which we More thought was a boon but be warned - though you can get on at 11.00am, you cant access your cabin at all until 13.30pm so you have to lug any carry on luggage with you for two and a half hours! That aside, no real complaints and the staff were all efficient and friendly.
How best to describe the cabin. Tired i think sums it up. Generally it was a good size, with plenty of room for our stuff plus the travelling effects of a fashion concious 6 year old. The furniture, despite a recent refit was looking a bit tired though but the worst thing was the bed. The matresses need replacing but they have just added a foam topper. It all looks like a bad 1970's seaside B&B with the sheets off. Not really impressed at all. Balcony is nice and an ok size and the bathroom is a big improvement - mainly because there is no cold, dank curtain but a proper sliding door screen. About time too.
Position was good, quiet and not much passing traffic.
MDR: on the whole OK, but not as good as I remember it. And when did Lobster become a $35 suppliment? Thats more than the price on shore and do I not get a discount for not eating the comp main course? This is penny pinching too far in my book. Service was generally good, but the waiter rang the cabin late on the last night since we skipped dinner to insist we scored him well on the post cruise survey. Ive never had that before and it earnt him a zero score and a reduced tip. RCI need to let their staff know they have to give good service for good marks, not bother the guests directly. MDR is the place to eat breakfast and for me. lunch. Problem is they only open for lunch on sea days which means in port you are stuck with the food fight that is the Wind Jammer (see below)
Giovanni's Table: Excellent. Worth every penny of the supplement and more. In fact, had it just been the two of us we may well have eaten here every night. It was the one time that I felt the old RCI had been maintained. I was sad to see Portofino go but this is an excellent replacement. Our dinner here was the stand out evening of the cruise but in many ways that is to RCI's detrement, as it highlighted just how down market the rest of the services had gone.
Windjammer: OK, time to try and stay objective. The food was generally good. The buffets were kept well stocked and *most* of the time we got a seat fairly easily. They didnt have any American Bacon out for breakfast though (perhaps because of an English centic cruise) but some arrived when asked. The worst thing about the WJ is the other guests. Im sure they are on the whole lovely people but I really dont know what comes over some guests when they walk through the doors of the buffet. By day two we'd had enough and only set foot in the place well outside of 'popular' time. 'Feeding time at the zoo' is about right. sadly. Im not sure I managed the objective thing there...
Johnny Rockets: Proper cherry coke! For those that dont know what i mean by this try it. As good as it always was but now a $5 dollar cover just makes RCI seem mean. nice burger, great fries and a good atmosphere but hidden away and full of teens during the day as its right next to their hang out.
Others: Sorrentos made for a nice late night snack, with pizza to a good standard and some interesting Quesedia's. The coffee shop did some nice sandwhiches and the coffee was to a very good standard. Cupcake cupboard is a waste of space for me, but if you like cakes they looked nice. Shame they dont do the pub grub in the pub any more - I used to like that a quiet venue but I guess thats why they stopped it - too quiet.
Bars and Drinks: Usual selection of drinkeries. Apparently free pooring is going to end soon, or so a couple of the bar chaps told me. Viking Crown Lounge is nice and always head plenty of space. Schooner Bar is a bit cramped and on indy and acts a bit like a thoroughfair rather than a cosy bar it should be. Had a piano, but no-one ever played it. Only thing that ever happened in the nigh club was an art auction. Drink prices havent really changed in 6-7 years, so I suppose thats a plus. We had the non-alcholic drinks package which, if you like coffee, is worth it. A couple of premium coffees a day and your up. The cigar and brandy room is still underused and my favourite little hide away but one waonders how long that will be retained.
Kids: Have to say the kids club was excellent and the nursery for our 2 year old was a boon. No.1 Daughter was trrested ti the Barbie at Sea package which, now they have droped the price to a much more palatable $149 is actually pretty good value. Lots of stuff to keep and a dedicated activity every day.
Entertainment: Saw one show - Queen tribute act. Was entertaining. The rest of it is a bit like a 1960s holiday camp. Maybe other people like shouty in your face cruise directors but I swear we were one conga line away from a knobbly knees competition at the pool side hotly followed by the glamerous granny show. Honestly, they still try to convince you its a luxury holiday and then drag individuals out who wouldnt be allowed in the average butlins. I find all of the above best avoided. Fun (for some) it might be but uxury it isnt.
General: For me RCI has lost its shine and its way. OK, so the cruise prices are the same as they were 10 years ago and that real money cost saving has to come from somewhere but they have cut too deep. Too much charging for extras that on a 'luxury' holiday (or just a holiday that costs over £5k for a week) should be standard. Im fine paying for Giovanni's etc, but extras in the MDR, or just a burger for lunch? I am also sad to say that perhaps sailing out of Southampton during English school holidays was a mistake. RCI have definitly shifted their target demographic. It really isnt a lucury holiday. Its more akin to a floating Costa Brava (Spanisj resort, not Italian cruise line) or an upscale holiday park. the service has gone and as has the feeling of being special, or looked after. Should we care? If it was a couple of thousand pounds then perhaps not, but for £5-6K for 6 nights I want a bit more. And you can get it, just not with RCI. Which is a shame. Less
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NIcely sized cabin, with plenty of room for three. Balcony was good and there is enough storage.